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Observation and Logic can Improve Workflow

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Improving workflow doesn’t require intimate knowledge of technical systems. As one blogger demonstrates, it simply requires keen observation.

A writer named Maxime Haineault noted in his post, The Importance of a Well Thought Workflow, that the workflow of an automated teller machine (ATM) makes a tremendous impact on the customer experience. He outlined a sequence that will probably seem familiar. Unfortunately, that site has since been taken offline, but we were able to save the steps of that sequence for you.

  1. Insert your card
  2. Select your preferred language
  3. Enter your PIN
  4. Chose an action (withdraw)
  5. Enter the desired amount and press OK
  6. Receive your money
  7. Wait a few seconds for the next screen to load
  8. Then the next screen asks if you want to make another transaction (let’s say no)
  9. Wait a few seconds and retrieve your card from the teller machine

What’s the problem? As Haineault, explained, there have been many times that he was walked away after step six, leaving the machine open with his account and holding his personal ATM card!

business process methodology shock

© Flickr user

The solution is incredibly straightforward. Change the workflow to make the order sensible, and the system becomes easier to use and less error prone. The blogger explains:

  1. Insert your card (language is picked transparently from your bank account preferences)
  2. Enter your PIN
  3. Chose an action (withdraw)
  4. Enter the desired amount
  5. A new screen appears asking if you want to make another transaction (no)
  6. Retrieve your card
  7. Receive your money

The second workflow is better because nobody would walk out of the bank without the money they came to withdraw and they give your the money AFTER you get back your card. This wouldn’t solve 100% of problems, but it would take care of the majority. If someone did leave without their money, they’re clearly a bigger issue at play.

This might be only a small detail, but on a large scale system the impact is substantial. And it’s the small details that can be of the highest importance once an organization is functioning at nearly maximum efficiency. Plenty of companies do most things right, but the closer you can get to an optimal system, the more you can differentiate yourself from your competition.

In essence, this is what productivity consultants do. We closely analyze workflow and look for ways to make improvements.

Just because things seem to be working fine, that doesn’t mean it’s time to get complacent. The Baseball Magazine wrote about how the tiniest margin can impact a baseball game.

Almost everyone has sat in a game where a hot liner struck the fence almost exactly at the top. Had the ball been even an inch higher it would have gone into the stand and been a home run. As it was, it is seldom more than a fly ball. Note that the bat met the ball below the center. This ball was hit so low that it will probably result in a foul fly behind the catcher. a two-base hit and may bound back so far from its impact with the fence as to go for a scant single. Now just what was the difference in this instance between a home run, which may have broken up the game, and a hit that was merely a safe hit? The difference was probably not over a hundredth of an inch, perhaps not over a thousandth of an inch in the elevation of the plane at which the bat met the ball.

Your company may not rely on hundredths of inches, but if you can find ways to maximize your workflow, then who knows how much more successful you may become?

Learn more. Contact our business process consulting team today!

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